Centre, Delhi spar over oxygen

Santhosh, in a tweet, asked Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal when he found out that the city does not have any oxygen manufacturing plants and what he did to build one.

As the court battle between Delhi and the Centre over the supply of oxygen to the capital gets fiercer, BJP’s National General Secretary B L Santhosh shared a letter sent to states by the Drugs Controller General in April last year, asking them to grant permission to manufacturers of industrial oxygen to manufacture oxygen for medical use.

Santhosh, in a tweet, asked Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal when he found out that the city does not have any oxygen manufacturing plants and what he did to build one. Santhosh also asked why Delhi hospitals did not have their own oxygen generation plants.

The Delhi government, however, is constrained in this matter as setting up of any medium and large scale industries is not allowed in Delhi owing to pollution control norms, officials said. The law only allows for setting up Small Scale Industries (SSI).

“Delhi’s unique nature as well as high pollution load means that by law, large industrial units are not allowed in the state. Some other states have asked big industries to start producing oxygen but Delhi does not have that luxury,” a senior Delhi government official said.

Not a single hospital in the city, except AIIMS, has an oxygen generation plant.

Officials in the Delhi government, meanwhile, blamed the Union Health Ministry for failing to ensure that Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) Oxygen Generation plants that were promised were not installed on time. These plants, much smaller than the industrial scale plants that hospitals in Delhi and several other cities are mostly dependent on, generate oxygen from compressed air which is fed into adsorption towers.

Eight Delhi hospitals, including the Centre-run Safdarjung Hospital, were supposed to get their own PSA oxygen generation plants by support of the PM CARES fund. Of these, only one has been made operational three weeks ago.

In an affidavit filed in court on Tuesday, the Centre said, “As on date, one plant at Burari Hospital, Kaushik Enclave, has been installed and other four plants are expected to be installed by 30.4.2021. Site readiness certificate for one site has been received on 19.04.2021 and remaining (2) are still awaited from the Government of NCT Delhi.”

According to the latest records available with the Delhi government health department, site readiness certificates from five hospitals had already been provided earlier while that of two was sent on Monday and Thursday, respectively. The last plant was to be set up at Safdarjung Hospital but has not come up yet.

A senior Delhi government official said that the vendor under PM CARES had not completed the task assigned to him, leading to delays. “The PSA plants do not require a lot of space and we completed formalities for five hospitals well in time. For the remaining two under our control, the Centre said the format that the site readiness certificate was given was incorrect and had to be sent again. Even that was sent. What about the plants where the certificate was given in time? It hardly takes 2-3 days to set up this plant. Why has it not been done yet? Safdarjung Hospital is under the Centre, why has it not been installed there yet?” the official said.

Of the eight plants, the biggest was supposed to be set up at Lok Nayak Hospital, which is also Delhi’s largest Covid facility. Its capacity was supposed to be 2,000 litres per minute (lpm). Health department data show that the PSA units were received in five hospitals in March.

The first hospital to get a PSA unit, with a capacity of 700 lpm, was DDU Hospital but it has not been set up yet. The lone hospital, with a 500 lpm generation unit functional, is Burari Hospital and it started functioning three weeks ago. On Sunday, the Union Health Ministry had said that 33 out of over 167 such plants had been made functional and 59 will be functional by the end of April.

On Saturday, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, while reviewing the preparedness of the Covid Care Centre at Chhatarpur in Delhi, said Delhi was getting more than its allotted quota of oxygen. This claim has been opposed by the Delhi government in court and it claimed that Delhi got only 309 MT out of the 480 MT it was supposed to on Friday.

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